Roleplaying games are pretty predictable things. In the books you will find some background information, a large chapter on defeating challenges (usually monsters but not always) and a section for creating Player Characters.
From time to time, some books will mention that it is important to discuss the group make up with the other players. If you have ever played in a Dungeons & Dragons game where 4 people showed up with wizards to play, you might have an idea why this is important. It is, just for the record, very important.
Even more important than “will our adventurers survive past the first round of the first combat?” at least in the case of campaign based play is, “what kind of story do we want to tell?” When the game master prepares for heroic adventure, and the players want to play scoundrels, scum, and those who aim to misbehave, everyone gets frustrated quickly.
In recent years, some games have been emphasizing the group mechanic, and the group story. The best example I can think of is the Life Path system used in Fantasy Flight’s Rogue Trader. A very interesting mechanic you should check out if you get the chance. But that game assumes you are all going to be crew on a single, albeit massive, rogue trading vessel and the Life Path only conveys how these characters came together.
But just last year, Privateer Press released the Iron Kingdoms RPG, and inside that book, the rules for adventuring companies. In general, these simple and elegant rules reward characters for pruning off some of their options. The result is forcing a discussion about what the players want their characters to do, and how their characters are related. So how does it work? Here is an example (paraphrased):
Pirates of the Broken Coast
The characters are the ranking officers of a small frigate. They may be actual pirates, legitimate privateers in the service of one of the Iron Kingdoms, or even in the employ of the Cryxian Pirate Fleet.
Requirements: All characters must choose at least one of these careers: Cutthroat, Explorer, Military Officer, Pirate, or Thief.
Benefits: The adventuring company begins with a small ship, crewed by “unwashed sea dogs” The player designated as Captain gets the Natural Leader ability for free. All Members of the company get the Hit the Deck! ability for free.
Simple really. On the other tentacle, there is no other rule in the game that will let the group start with a ship to their name, and certainly no individual character. The GM wants to run a pirate/privateer game, and the players are into it? This way the first adventure does not have to be “so we steal a ship.”
There are seven different Adventuring Companies in the main rulebook, including the ubiquitous Mercenary Company which has no requirements so any adventuring group can at least get the small benefit it offers.
So what of it? Do Adventuring Companies make Iron Kingdoms Roleplay the greatest game ever?
But this simple of a mechanic is just begging to be stolen and used in whatever game you like. If every character can cast spells, I will let you have a small chantry house in Pathfinder, or if everyone takes piloting skills you can be a fighter squadron in Star Wars, that kind of thing.
It is a good idea, use it in your games.
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